St. Ferdinand in Florissant. (One Year) St. Sebastian in Dellwood. (Five Years)

St. John Gildehaus in Villa Ridge. (Eight Years) Immaculate Conception in Union. (One Year)

St. Joseph Neier in the Union area. (Eighteen Years) St. Francis Borgia in Washington. (Three Years)

Holy Redeemer in Webster Groves. (Four Years…and counting)

It has been quite a journey. Each parish, a joy. Each year, a good one. And so many memories.

So many good priests I have served with, many of whom have passed to the other side of life.

Teaching an eighth grade class my first year. (And subse- quently seeing them grow up into amazing individuals.) Baptizing infants and then years later, baptizing their chil- dren.

Presiding at weddings and then years later, presiding at their children’s weddings.

Faculty basketball games and bicycle bar tours with the facul- ty of Aquinas-Mercy. (Was I really that young?)

Directing theatre productions at A-M and Borgia. (Sound of Music, See How They Run, Annie, Godspell, Anything Goes, Pippin, Barnum, Mame, The Fantasticks, Into the Woods, Guys and Dolls – to name a few)

Acting in theatre productions at the local community college, East Central. (Of Mice and Men, the Scottish Play, The Pirates of Penzance, 1776, Man of La Mancha, Noises Off)

Great times with the faculty of Borgia. (River Otter Hockey Games, Vegas Trips, countless Friday afternoon ‘faculty meet- ings’ at local Washington establishments)

Building two new buildings one at Neier and one at Borgia. (Talk about getting shoved out of your comfort zone!)

Fun and hilarious times in the classroom. (Occasionally, my students actually learned something.)

And throughout the entire time, the constant and consistent support of my family and friends. 

There were some difficult times, to be sure. The loss of my mom in 1986, my dad in 1994, my little sister in 1999 and my big brother in 2013. There were funerals that only the grace of God guided me through. A triple funeral in 2003 of three young men killed in a car accident, held at Union High School to accommodate the crowd comes to mind, as does the funeral of a student I had known her entire life, may have been the only time I felt like I couldn’t get up and speak about her. I was too broken. (I made it through.)

And then there was the funeral of Dakota.

Dakota was a two year old who was murdered by his mother’s boyfriend. (Yep, you read that correctly.). I knew Dakota’s great-grandparents and they asked me to do a service at the funeral home. I called the funeral director to get the lay of the land. “Would his father be there?” I asked. “Oh, no,” the direc- tor told me, “he is not around.” OK, I thought, that would be one less aspect of this mess with which I would not have to deal. I couldn’t fathom the bitterness, the acrimony, the anger

and hatred if the father of the slain child was in the same room as the mother whose “friend” had taken the life of his little one. That afternoon I boldly strode into the funeral home only to hear the sound of blood-curdling masculine wailing at the child’s casket. Wha? Dad had shown up. The calculus of grief   I had to deal with that day just became exponentially more complicated. I learned two great lessons that afternoon.

Sometimes, you have to just dive into the uncomfortable and awkward, you have no choice. And when you are faced with this impossibly unsettling situation, only the grace of God gets you through. It was one of those moments (and I’ve had many) when I knew definitely that I had made the right decision to follow the call to the priesthood.

That is the cool thing about life, even the moments that make us flinch and cringe can be life-giving and enriching. But only if we allow it.

The biggest downside has been the horrible crimes committed by my brother priests. I could have done without the clergy scandal over the past forty years, but even in that ordeal I have experienced deep grace. After it all hit a couple of years back, one of my former students wrote me a beautiful letter expressing her support. Her kind words were an antidote, an anti venom, for the hatred and disgust that many people have for priests, no matter their guilt or lack thereof. And whenever it comes up in the news again, I know there are so many people surrounding me, past and present, whose backing and love I can count on. After one particularly difficult experience, I went to the home of one of my parishioners to anoint her son Ronnie, who was physically and mentally handicapped from a vi- cious childhood disease. That day I was feeling particularly sorry for myself. Needless to say, after encountering Ronnie and his remarkable spirit, I was fine (better than fine) and I re- solved NEVER TO FEEL SORRY FOR MYSELF AGAIN. Ronnie died in December of 2003, but I will always carry in my soul the extraordinary and eternal gift he gave me that day.

It has been a great forty years. Only God knows how much longer He will allow me to serve his holy people. But even if it were to end next week, it has been quite a ride.

One last thing. I want to thank the faculty here at Holy and all the students of our school who were so gracious to me last week at an all-school Mass. I was humbled by your generosity and affection. Thanks. Thanks also to all the parishioners here at Holy that have made these last four, somewhat unconventional years, fun and fulfilling.

Fr. Kevin

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